Sunday the 20th of June was judgment day for the Gaijin as they came up against an All France team that had clobbered them embarrassingly earlier in the season.
After the 25 minute trek from Toda Koen Station to the ground, we all could have been forgiven for wanting a bit of a breather, especially given the energy sapping humidity that hung in the air (the beach would certainly have been a more comfortable option). The ground was a mixed bag, underwater in some places due to recent heavy rain, sandy like la plage in certain areas, and hard and fast in others but overall, better than some of the pitches we have to deal with around Tokyo.
From the kickoff, the Gaijin looked to dominate with halfback for the day Hitoshi Chihara collecting the ball and making a good break up field. It wasn't long after that Andy Ballard, playing at flanker on the day, managed to barge his way over from close range to register the first points for the day.
Following some feisty interchanges where All France tried to unsettle the Gaijin in typical "French" fashion, fullback Bryan O'Brian skillfully gathered the ball around halfway from a French clearance kick and charged up field. Taking the ball almost to the defensive line at pace, O'Brian then offloaded a nice pass to Joffa Harris who in turn fed the ball on to wing Charles Joffre (looking to redeem himself after a shocking performance against his countrymen last time round). Joffre looked like he could make it to the corner for the try but some speedy French defense prevented this leaving him to throw a "hail mary" pass back over his shoulder. Fortunately this went straight back into the arms of Joffa Harris, playing center for the day, who had little more to do than fall over the tryline for the try. Matt Stride converted putting the Gaijin 12-0 up and well on target to avenge the previous loss to the Frenchmen.
As is so often the case, following a great start, narcolepsy kicked in and the Gaijin went to sleep. Balls were dropped, passes thrown forward, kicks went backwards, the list of indiscretions goes on. Then, just before halftime, the All France centre found a gaping hole in the defence and strolled over under the posts for a converted try leaving the halftime score as 12-7. This was not the way things were meant to go. Changes were made at halftime but it seemed to be narcoleptics replacing narcoleptics as the dozy Gaijin performance continued.
Nothing that went on in the second half would have made the highlights reel had this game been recorded although the Gaijin did manage to sneak a try close to the end to close the game out. Gaijin Debutant, Dan Arakawa was the man to go over, a just reward for a solid performance in the front row.
Overall a win is a win and a modicum of revenge was achieved but there was a hollowness about this victory and a feeling that we would have to play a lot better the following week in our final Tokyo Cup outing, a game on which our first division aspirations for 2011 hinge upon.
Final Score: TGRFC 17 (Andy Ballard 1, Joffa Harris 1, Dan Aarkawa 1 tries, Matt Stride 1/3 conversions) All France 7
Hitoshi Chihara was out and away the best forward and back on the field and was justly awarded player of the day. The only others worth mentioning were Bryan O'Brian and Dan Arakawa who had solid games all round.
Joffa Harris did well playing out of position in the centers. Liam Ramshaw was awarded the goat for asking for a clean jersey after getting a bit muddy during the game.
Man of the Match: Hitoshi Chihara
Goat of the Match: Liam Ramshaw
1. Dan Arakawa (Japan/NZ)
2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
3.Simon Palm (Germany)
4.Warren Adamson (South Africa)
5. Mauro Sauco (Argentina)
6. Andy Ballard (England)
7. Dave Johnson (Wales)
8. Aaron Nutsford (New Zealand)
9. Hitoshi Chihara (Japan)
10. Toshi (Japan)
11. Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)
12. Matt Stride (Australia)
13. Joffa Harris (Australia)
14. Charles Joffree (France)
15. Bryan O'Brien (USA)
Reserves: Chris Lucas (Australia), Rob Poulton (England), Rich O'Shea (Wales), Takeshi Ochiai (Japan), Apisai Bati (Fiji), Matt Downer(c) (NZ), Blake Walker (NZ)